A Hardened Heart
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In Mark 8:17 (NAS), Jesus asked, "Do you not yet see or understand?  Do you have a hardened heart?"  Jesus' question to his disciples still calls to us all, challenging us to examine and deal with our inner state.  Scripture helps us to recognize the many facets of hardness of heart.

In the story of Pharaoh and Moses (Exodus chapters 4-14), several Hebrew words for "harden" are used (seemingly interchangeably), showing different aspects of the hardness of Pharaoh's heart.  One of the words (Strong's #2388; see Ex 4:21) means "to make strong, bold, firm, hard, and rigid."  In this sense, Pharaoh was boldly and unquestioningly confident in pursuing his own (wrong) course of action.

A second word (Strong's #7185; see Ex 7:3) means "to be dense, i.e. tough, severe, hard, stiff, stubborn, and obstinate."  This suggests, not going for what's wrong, but resisting what's right, obstinately disregarding God's show of power and His word and reproof.  A third word (Strong's #3513/3515; see Ex 7:14 KJV, 8:15) signifies "to be heavy, rich, or numerous," and, in its bad sense, means "to make dull, unresponsive, insensible, difficult, stupid."  This suggests neither going for what's wrong nor resisting what's right, but being so self-preoccupied, content, and dully unresponsive that one misses God altogether.

In the New Testament, there are two basic ideas used to signify hardness.  One idea (Strong's #4456, poroo; #4457, porosis) derives from a word referring to a kind of stone.  It means "to petrify, make hard, render stupid or callous;" "to cover with a thick skin;" "to make the heart dull, hard, calloused;" "to loose the power of understanding."  This is the hardness that angered and grieved Jesus (Mark 3:5).  It is the hardness (blindness KJV) that Paul said (Ephesians 4:18) characterizes the Gentiles.  He warned believers to put it off and not continue to walk in it (Ephesians 4:22).

The other idea is rooted in a word (Strong's #4642, skleros) meaning "dry, hard, tough, (parched)," and, relative to men, it means "harsh, stern, hard."  Regarding the heart, this hardness denotes "obstinacy and stubbornness, and a destitution of spiritual perception."  This is the idea in Romans 2:5:  "But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgement of God."  This is also the hardness that drew Jesus' reproach:  "...and He reproached them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who had seen Him after He had risen" (Mark 16:14).

A hardened heart stands in the way of belief, trust, and obedience (Hebrews 3:12-19), and it leads the way into mischief and calamity (Proverbs 28:14).  Just as in all our own lives, it is keenly relevant in Word-Based Counseling to be alert to and ready to deal with hardened hearts.

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